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Vietnam vet dies day before his stolen service dog is found

Tinker Honor Guard members regularly practice how to drape, remove and fold a flag from a casket. (Margo Wright/U.S. Air Force)
November 11, 2018

A Vietnam veteran passed away before he was able to reunite with his stolen service dog.

Joseph Hanson, a 67-year-old Vietnam veteran was walking outside the Old Town shopping mall in Kissimmee, Fla. on Oct. 28 when the theft occurred.

Hanson, who suffered from PTSD, was walking his two service dogs when a woman approached him and began a dispute. “She got in my face. Cussing and swearing,” Hanson said after the theft.

Unknowingly, a second woman approached from behind, removed one dog’s leash, and walked off with her.

The encounter was caught on video. Watch it below:

The stolen dog was a 21-year-old, six-pound Pomeranian named Kira. She was also partially deaf and blind. Her absence left Hanson and his other dog, Star, worried and distraught.

“I use her for PTSD,” he said, according to Fox 35. “I’m a combat veteran and served in Vietnam. That’s why I have her, so I can stay in control in bad situations.”

Sadly, Hanson suffered multiple heart attacks and was found unresponsive on Saturday, Nov. 3, Spectrum News reported.

Just one day later, Kira was recovered.

Hanson’s longtime friend and owner of an animal rescue, Julianne Jackson, tried to tell Hanson that Kira was found, but it was too late. As he laid unconscious in the hospital, nurses wrote “Kira is safe with Julianne” on a whiteboard in his room.

Hanson passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

“He just couldn’t understand it,” said Jackson. “[He] couldn’t understand what the thinking was… why someone would be so cruel and I’m sure that stressed him out. And I think he died of a broken heart.”

Jackson is giving a home to both dogs.

“I don’t think our justice system does justice many times,” Jackson said. “Unfortunately, in this case, Joe can’t even stand up for himself.”

Another of Hanson’s friends, Kendra Palladino, said, “He was talking about God a lot. He was lost without that dog. I’m telling you he was lost.”

“I honestly believe this is why he’s not with us now, so if we could honor him and all veterans there that would be very special,” Palladino added.

Kira was found after authorities received a tip from an anonymous person.

The two women responsible for the theft, Jennifer Gotschall and Monique Cosser, were arrested on charges of grand theft.